Recovery is a difficult process, and knowing you are not alone during those rough times in treatment makes the seemingly unending appointments, groups, and raging emotions more manageable. Recovery stories are valuable tools in helping patients get to a place of FULL recovery. One such tale, as written by Missy Jasper, details how she overcame the deathly grips of an eating disorder, and found a more fulfilling life without resorting to food restriction or compulsive exercise to give her a sense of control or identity.
I was fourteen years old in the Summer of 2002 when I first collided with Kristen Lindsey-Dudley. After dropping 40 pounds in approximately six months, I was shuffling through life in a daze. Because I was so encompassed in my anorexic stupor, I do not remember how I landed myself in Kristen’s office or who had placed me there. All I knew was that I was terrified. Without warning, Kristen hoisted the dreaded ‘Meal Plan’ into my world and it seemed that all my hard work counting calories and restricting was soon to go to waste. Stubborn and young, I believed only I could really know what was best for me. I resisted the meal plan passionately, and I took all measures to fake my way out of it. I found myself constantly pouring milk down the drain in secret and furtively tossing bags of peanuts in the trash. I created what I thought was a brilliant divide between my treatment team and my mother, which kept me in control of what I was eating at all times. In my mischief, I turned my mom against Kristen, convincing her that everything Kristen said was wrong. As far as my mom knew, Kristen was completely out to get me. Meanwhile, in appointments, I would lie with a straight face to Kristen, inventing fictitious meals I had never even considered eating. I found a way to lie my way out of treatment: a method I thought would work for me indefinitely. What I was really doing was effectively sabotaging my recovery… and my life.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the following 8 years I spent stumbling through high school and dragging myself through college in California. It wasn’t pretty. Because I was so resistant to treatment and had my mother wrapped around my finger, I was able to travel to the mainland for college. I thought, “I’ve learned so much from Kristen already, I’m sure I will take this with me to school and I’m ready to start anew”. What I didn’t know was that college would turn out to be a breeding ground for my eating disorder. I had no supervision, no support, and no one to stop me in the midst of my crazy compulsions. Needless to say, I crashed and burned. Additionally, I wasted four additional years of my young adulthood; years that most say are the “best times of their lives”.
After college I returned to Hawaii. Adulthood was forcing its way into my life in a very abrupt way, and I was still toiling over food and my eating disorder. I don’t remember exactly what changed within me that made me select recovery over the illness that I had chosen to maintain for 8 years. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was shame, maybe it just finally made sense. But for whatever reason, I finally decided to align with Kristen rather than resist her. For the first time in my life, I ate everything I was supposed to. I did gain weight, but it was WONDERFUL! When I stopped trying to fight to be at a weight lower than my body wanted, EVERYTHING just fell into place! My thoughts were clearer, my insecurities fewer, and for once in a very long time, I finally felt it: happiness, true happiness.
Today, at 25, I can finally say I have beat my illness. Recovery looks and feels wonderful, but what is more important to me these days is helping Kristen get her patients through treatment. I spent SO LONG resisting her, only to realize after 8 long years that she was right all along. Looking back now, I see that Kristen wasn’t trying to make me “fat” or unhappy. She was trying desperately to help me. That’s really what she wants for all the girls. From the other side of recovery, I can see so clearly how sincere Kristen’s efforts are. I wonder how I could possibly have thought someone so giving of her time and energy was trying to ruin my life. I see Kristen’s treatment as a temporarily painful means to an end. She’s hard with her patients because she cares about them and wants to push them into safety. She’s willing to endure her patients’ tantrums, feel their fits of rage, and hear “I hate you Kristen” every single day. After all of this, she shows up every day for appointments and stays late every Tuesday and Thursday for food group. I think that’s pretty amazing. So for all of you patients and families of patients who are reading this, I encourage you to stick with Kristen and push through treatment. Each and every one of you deserves to see the other side of recovery.